Yes. That really is the answer. For so many years we have been told only thousands or millions of acres preserved in total can save the planet from imminent destruction. Only by keeping safe enough room for elk, wolves, panthers and grizzlies are we doing any good. That huge swaths of rugged uncharted territory is needed for wildlife to survive, native plants to balance the weather and for humans even to feel whole again is undisputed at this point. I believe we should follow E.O. Wilson's idea of saving half the planet for nature in order to stand a chance of a real future.
If that is so, other than our sense of what is beautiful, why bother going native and not using pesticides in our small, spotted areas in suburban and urban neighborhoods? If half the planet does get protected for nature, why not do whatever the hell we want in our own small landscapes?
First, we should want to keep ourselves, our children, our pets and neighbors safe from toxic chemicals. Read the literature that's been out for years on this subject. Pesticides contain endocrine interrupters that can severely affect the nervous systems of young children. Dogs especially have died from exposure to lawn chemicals used to control "pests", often when there weren't any pests detected! Fertilizers, as it turns out do not help plants grow over time. Most products you buy at any big box store contains chemicals that actually kill the natural flora and fauna, often microscopic in size, that actually support long term plant growth and health. You can actually kill your landscape with kindness.
Planted areas require naturally occurring microbes to be healthy, and those microbes need for us to be returning plant matter back to the soil. In other words, natural mulch. Let the leaves be, leave your trimmings in the garden, only use untreated mulch made from real plant material if you must buy some, grab your neighbor's bags of oak leaves and put them to good use, and stop being so fussy.
What happens when we simply re-use what is already there, and stop using pesticides and fertilizers? Life. Life happens. Life on a very small scale. And that life consists of arthropods. You know, insects (including butterflies and bees), spiders, beetles. They make up the layer of life who can turn plant material into energy that can be used by other life forms. As in bird food, readily available and so important to baby birds. Yes, there are other animals such as squirrels who eat plant seeds and then become food for others. But not on the same scale as the arthropods. They are vital to life on this planet, and WE have the power to help them thrive, right in our own landscapes!
Every one of us with a patch of dirt to work in can literally save lives, and create a home for others. Every one of us with a patch of ground we have access to regardless of size, can decide to welcome life rather than destroy it. Every one of us who can, must make the right decision.
It's simple, really. Stop using pesticides and fertilizers, we do not need them. When we allow our outdoor spaces to balance themselves no additional help is needed. Add native plants that naturally occur in our regions. It is those native plants our butterflies and native bees have evolved with and so desperately need. And finally, just stop killing everyone. Yes, I said everyONE. It isn't just humans who are someone. Next time you see a nectaring wasp, take time to look into their eyes. You will see someone, not something looking back at you.
Know that in doing this, we are all making a difference. We are supporting the larger web of life by supporting the very first layer that makes up most of life on this planet.
Also know that many biologists, scientists, and those who study nature now agree with me on this. Our little patches of life affirming native gardens DO matter, and provide healthy and natural food, resting and nesting for so many native insects, beetles, birds, butterflies and bees.
You tell me.